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PHIL Speakers Program: Anya Plutynski (Washington-St. Louis)

Date & Time:
September 27, 2013 | 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

The Philosophy Speakers Program presents

ANYA PLUTYNSKI on "The Evolution of Failure"

Location: Social Sciences Building, Room 1253


About the Talk

There is a quickly increasing body of literature in biology that treats cancer progression as an evolutionary process, where the serial acquisition of mutations over time by a population of cancer cells is represented as a process of natural selection. This talk will provide an overview of some of the presuppositions and challenges in modeling cancer as a selective process. In particular, I will trace the history of this idea, and how changes in our understanding of evolution have reshaped, or have potential to reshape, hinking about cancer's evolutionary dynamics. For example, do epigenetic forms of inheritance require a reframing of what is heritable, and thus how a cancer evolves? What might some of the limitations be of optimality modeling in the context of cancer? Going back to Levins and Lewontin, need we rethink the "adaptationist" framework, and consider a "dialectical" approach to cancer, and what would this mean?

About the Speaker

Anya Plutynski is a historian and philosopher of biology with interests in the history and philosophy of medicine, general philosophy of science, and biomedical ethics. She has written on the role of modeling in science, scientific explanation, metaphors in science, abduction, appeals to parsimony in evolutionary theorizing, and the role of chance in evolutionary biology. Her coedited book, with Sahotra Sarkar, A Companion to the Philosophy of Biology, is a collection of concise overviews of philosphical issues raised by all areas of biology. Her forthcoming book, Explaining Cancer, develops a view of cancer as a heterogeneous natural kind, and uses cancer research as a case study for testing competing philosophical views of causation and scientific explanation.  Other research interests include evidence-based medicine, biomedical research ethics, particularly issues surrounding risk communication, over diagnosis and over treatment, and biodiversity conservation.  She holds appointment as an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis.  

Plutynski's CV

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